Israel: Myth Buster, Treasure Chest, Surprise

Jerusalem from Mount of Olives, tb010210541
Temple Mount and Dome of The Rock (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

Israel is many things to many people … A land claimed by the world’s three great religions as their place of origin; a challenging melting pot of contemporary world politics, intrigue and conflicts; a surprising land of diverse and astonishing natural beauty, complete with ethnic complexities, historical consequence and Biblical significance; an archaeologist’s treasure chest, a history student’s classroom and a believer’s sanctuary.   Above all, it is a place that resonates for any faith traveler seeking to walk where Jesus walked.

Orthodox Boy At The Western Wall
Orthodox Boy At The Western Wall
A Challenge To Your Perceptions

Many travel destinations enrich your historical and world view; in others you find rest and relaxation.  Israel as a travel destination will do all of the above, while challenging your preconceptions, busting some myths and inspiring some soul-searching.  Come along with us on a faith-based tour, you will feel the power of this ancient land the moment you step foot in the Holy Land.  We invite you to peer behind the media headlines of strife and political rhetoric into the wonder that is Israel’s history, God’s Old Testament covenants with the Jews and Christ’s New Testament ministry.  Along the way you will meet the people of Israel….Palestinians, Israelis, Sabras (native Israelis) Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Size of Israel and New jersey
Israel & New Jersey

According to statistics, the overall population of Israel on January 2017 was just over 8.6 million people.  This population resides in a country the size of New Jersey, and is as diverse in ethnicity and religion as it is in political views and national aspirations.

  • 75% or 6.5 million are Jews (43% of the 14.3 million Jews world-wide reside in Israel)
    • 42% of the Jews are cultural or secular (Hiloni)
    • 8% of the Jews are ultra Orthodox (Haredi)
    • 25% of the Jews are religious traditionalists (Dati)
    • 25% of the Jews are non-religious traditionalists (Masorti)
  • 21% or 1.8 million are Muslims, mainly Sunni
  • 4% or 400,000 are Christians, Druze and “others”
Men Praying At The Western Wall (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)
Paradigms Galore

As you travel through the Holy Land you find incredible religious, political, national and regional paradigms arranged side by side.  For instance, modern Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus, is currently home to the largest Arab community in Israel.  The city, which began 2000 years ago as a small Jewish village and grew up to become a Christian stronghold during the 3rd and 4th centuries, is home to a population of Muslim (69%) and Christian (31%) Israeli Arabs.

Mary’s Well in Nazareth (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)
Minarets and Steeples

This predominantly Muslim community claims Mary’s Well, where the Angel Gabriel spoke to young Mary about the impeding birth of Jesus, the newly discovered 1st century home thought to be where Jesus grew up, and other venerated Christian sites amidst a myriad of minarets and mosques calling faithful Muslims to morning, noon and evening prayers.

Village of Taybeh in the West Bank (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)
“No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

On the opposite end of the paradigm is Taybeh, which holds the distinction of not only being the only all-Christian village in the West Bank, but the last all-Christian village in the Holy Land.  In Chapter 11 of John’s Gospel, we find Jesus retiring to a Judean village called Ephraim for rest and seclusion after He raised Lazarus from the dead.  The Sadducees and Pharisees, reacting to this latest miracle, continue to furiously plot against Him.  Plainly….”No good deed goes unpunished – raise a man from the dead and they want to kill you!”  So Jesus, with His disciples in tow, left His beloved Jerusalem for the peace of Ephraim or as we know it today, Taybeh.

Taybeh Church Commemorating Jesus’ Visit to Biblical Ephraim, John 11: 54 (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)
Christ Rested Here

Boasting a history that goes back 5,000 years before Christ, the population of Taybeh is comprised entirely of three Christian denominations, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox.  Perched high on a hill overlooking the Jordan Valley, Jericho and the Dead Sea, the city of Taybeh is located just north of Jerusalem in the Palestinian West Bank.  This small West Bank village is devoid of minarets and mosques blaring their call to prayers and instead, filled with Christian churches, basilicas, cathedrals and sites commemorating Christ’s visit in the days before His crucifixion.

Kidron Valley looking towards Garden of Gethsemane (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)
Be Prepared To Be Changed

Whatever accepted wisdom you hold about Israel, the Holy Land will challenge and surprise you.  If your idea of a valley is the Napa or San Joaquin Valley….be prepared for the beautiful but small Kidron Valley that Jesus walked through from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives.  It’s tiny!  When you look for a desert, you find an oasis, when you look for a mountain, you find a Tel, when you look for despair, you find faith, when you look for conflict, you find serenity and when you look for Jesus, He finds you.

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